Monday, February 11, 2013

Awarding Non-treasure XP in Solo Labyrinth Lord or Similar RPGs

One problem with removing XP-for-gold from a game where that is the driving force behind the level advancement mechanic, is that you're left figuring out how to award XP in a manner that allows for reasonably paced level-advancement

Actually, let's back up: the problem also was noticed that, in randomly generating the contents of The Ever Expanding dungeon, treasure has amounted to 600sp. That would be fine for a silver standard game, but I'm running it as a gold standard monetary system.

The majority of the party's gain, monetary and thus XP, came from the 9Q session during which the party found the treasure of the massacred gnoll village and the ogre's treasure - neither of which was inside the dungeon proper. 

Relying on random placement and generation of treasure, thus far, has made all of the character death seemingly pointless. If these were being run by players in a social game, I am sure that I would have a hard time convincing them to go back into the dungeon.

In a social game, however, I can give out role-playing awards in varying amounts to balance this.

Playing solo, as I primarily do, that seems a bit like cheating:

"Hey John, great job today playing Feldspar, loved the pantomime communication with the kobolds. 500 XP for him. And 600 XP for Sister Linkat, I really thought it was her at the table at times."

Yes, that seems just a trifle odd.

Ok, then, what to do? Turn to the interwebz, of course.

Here are my current guidelines for awarding XP, which I assembled before Session 10. None of the below is original to me, but unfortunately, I can't recall which sites provided which suggestions*:

Guidelines for the Standardized Awarding of Non-Gold XP

  •  For every point of damage a PC deals out, they get 10 XP.  (I)
    • Damage dealt via a natural 20 earns 20 XP per point of damage dealt (I)
  • For every point of damage they suffer, they get 20 XP. (I)
  • For every use of a class specific skill (casting a spell, turning undead, picking locks, etc.) successful or not - 75 XP * character's level (I)
  • For every attribute check, pass or fail, 10 * result of the value rolled * character's level (I)
  • For every saving throw, pass or fail, 10 * result of the value rolled  * character's level (I)
  • For each new room discovered or stairwell located, 100 XP * dungeon level (P)
  • For each encounter survived - 20 XP * dungeon level (I)
  • Monster XP as given in rules - negotiating, turning, or killing earn same XP (P)

(I) = an individual award
(P) = a party award to be divided amongst the PCs and NPCs, the latter counting as 1/2.

In addition, I completely eliminated XP-for-Gold. That's right, not even XP on a fractional basis.

When session 10 was over, each PC came away with 200-300 XP each.

That might sound like I was overly generous - but I think the fact that, after the 9 sessions prior, only 1 PC was even half-way to 2nd level is enough to demonstrate that I needed to come up with a better method.

This is especially true if I hope to run LL or B/X as a social game again for players with advancement expectations shaped more by modern rules.

The awards have the added benefit of encouraging me to involve the PCs,  in a method consistent with their motivations, backgrounds and skill sets. I found it easier to have each PC participate in the narrative in a personality-centric way.

I plan to run a few more sessions this way and see how the XP awards play out. Thus far, I'm fairly satisfied that they're working as desired.

*EDIT: the damage for XP comes from The Tao of D&D 


  1. For a solo dungeon this looks reasonable . . . although keeping track of all of the individual combat damage might be a bit onerous.

    For a social game, I prefer the "player voting" method I described in an earlier comment to a previous post.

    -- Jeff

    1. Hi Jeff,

      I haven't forgotten that suggestion - for social games I think having a player voting method in addition to any GM awarded values (be it for combat or for making me laugh, as you once suggested, etc. )is a great idea.

      I'll address the record keeping of my method below, as both you and JF had a similar response.


  2. Yikes! This is brilliant and terrifying at the same time! If you can get a system going to smooth out the bookkeeping, you'll probably do fine with it, but I'd personally shy away from crediting things in this manner, especially since there are so many different formulas involved.

    Playing Devil's Advocate: Isn't passing a Saving Throw its own reward? :)

    1. Hi JF,

      That's something a I wrestled with. Ditto for an attribute check.

      I agree the saving throw is its own reward for passing, but I am using it here as a carrot to encourage the player (me) to put characters into situations where they might need to roll a saving throw or attribute test.

      I'm awarding them the experience for taking a risk and also for role playing (in the case of the attribute test) in a manner that attempts to reduce my personal bias. That said, only giving it out if the player fails is not a bad approach and I may switch to that if i find the PCs succeeding more often than not.

      Of course, it seems to me that merely entering the dungeon is a risk and thus all actions taken thereafter ought to potentially be rewarded in some way to reflect the fact that each trip in earns the PC a little more familiarity and comfort with the fear that would otherwise send them running at the first sign of trouble.


  3. Jeff and JF,

    It sounds rather difficult to track anything as I have it written out, but it fits right into the method I already use when I play solo.

    My map pages and rule books are hard copies as are any additional tables I might wish to use during the game, save for random name generation which are open in tabs in my laptop's web browser. The topmost tab in the browser is a document in Google Drive.

    I start by typing the current real-world date into the document, and then how many days have passed in the game world since play began in Session 1.

    When I begin gaming, I type everything into the Google document. That includes die rolls, room and encounter notes (with room #) and even snips of imagined dialog and party plans in addition to Mythic related notes (questions, probability and result).

    Damage received is also tracked on the character roster.

    In the past, I did sometimes fail to record damage roll values in my Google doc - especially if it was a miss. And I never tracked the value rolled on a savings throw. So, for me, those are really the only additions to my process.

    At the end of the session, I go back over the notes to find out what was encountered and how many encounters there were, what was defeated, how many points of damage were taken by each character, etc. and calculate my totals then, so that they don't interrupt game play. The blog post is usually written up after that or the next day depending on the hour.

    For other record keeping methods, or for very slow typists, I suspect these guidelines won't work out nearly as well as they represent too many new variables.

    That said, some of them, like damage taken, should be easy to keep track of as it's a standard part of most games involving Hit Points and combat.


    1. Impressive! I at least ought to track the days that pass in my solo campaign.

      If you ever feel like keeping running stats and sharing them, and you wonder who'd be interested in such data, count me in that group!

      BTW, I meant to mention how I'm using a variation of your mystery hit points idea. I'll comment on that post.

    2. I started tracking days because in the beginning, I had some vague notion that it would be important for the sake of determining what actions the dungeon's denizens would take between the party's visits.

      When Feldspar became poisoned by a giant centipede and unable to do anything for 10 days, it proved itself as a worthwhile exercise - it meant I could play that situation fairly, with the party venturing in without him several times.

      Regarding stats, what would you like to see?

      And I'm curious about you mystery hit point variation!

  4. This is a great little system, I think I'm going to "borrow" it for my own use! Also, thanks for sharing your process; I've been trying to perfect mine for a long time and with many different tools. I'll have to try out yours. Anyways, thanks again!

    1. Hi Mitchell,

      Thanks for commenting! By all means, "borrow" away! (after all, that's how I came up with the items on the list)

      If you make any tweaks to the XP system or have suggestions about process, I'd love to hear them.